Gagner Looking to Revive Career in Lehigh Valley

Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Sam Gagner made his Phantoms and AHL debut on December 31st.
Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
A concussion back on November 23rd saw then Philadelphia Flyers forward Sam Gagner miss 11 games. Upon being cleared to play, he was a healthy scratch for the Flyers the following three games before being the odd man out to make room for returning defenseman Mark Streit - clearing waivers on December 30th and being reassigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

"Just go down and play," Gagner said of the message Flyers' GM Ron Hextall gave him when telling him that he would be placed on waivers and reassigned to the Phantoms. "I hadn't played in over a month and even before that I was playing a fourth line role."

The move to the AHL marked the first time in his nine years of professional hockey in North America that he wasn't playing in the NHL - 580 career games with 118 goals and 223 assists. 

Gagner sees it as a chance to get back out on the ice and play.

"I'm happy to come down here and play," Gagner said after his third game with the Phantoms Sunday evening in Portland. "Get my game to where I need it to be and hopefully help the team win some games while I'm here."

After being out of game action for over five weeks, Gagner started his AHL debut with the Phantoms on New Year's Eve on a third line with Kevin Goumas and Danick Martel to ease him back into playing again. In that game, Martel tallied two goals - the second of which Gagner made happen by winning a battle along the boards and sending it up to Martel for the game-clinching empty net goal in a 3-1 win at Hershey. 

After back to back games in Portland, making it three games in four days for Gagner, the now Phantoms forward was playing alongside Nick Cousins and Taylor Leier - two players who certainly mesh well with Gagner's skill set.

"[Sunday] was the best I felt of the three games," Gagner said, adding, "The best I played too I think. I hadn't played in over a month so I think you have to expect some rust coming back. I feel like my game is coming along and feeling better out there so it's good news."

So far so good for Gagner, who is taking the demotion to the minors in stride and appears ready to get back to work and perhaps catch someone's eye as he becomes an unresticted free agent at the end of the season. He certainly isn't taking the AHL lightly.

"It's a tough league," Gagner said of the top minor league to the NHL. "I think its a fast-paced league and guys are doing whatever they can to get to the next level. For me, I think you have to prepare the right way and compete. I'm feeling better and better as the games go by here and hopefully it'll continue to be that way."


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